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Ad Watch
By Laura McCallum
October 2, 1998
Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
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RURAL MINNESOTA VOTERS COULD DETERMINE who wins the race for governor in November - they strongly supported Skip Humphrey over his DFL opponents in the September primary, and Republicans know Norm Coleman needs to beef up his outstate presence and gain rural votes. But Coleman opened himself up to criticism by questioning the economic viability of the family farm at an August debate, and DFLers seized the opportunity, rolling out a farmer testimonial ad shortly after the primary.

Ad clip: I know what a good crop looks like, what hard work feels like, and I know Norm Coleman is wrong to write off the family farm. After all, even in his global economy, people have to eat.

(View entire ad from our Media Page)

Public affairs consultant Dean Alger says this ad - which sparked what he calls a farm-issues food fight - violates the campaign advertising code developed by the Minnesota Compact, a non-partisan election watchdog group.
Alger: In the middle of the ad we've got all this sunshiney farm stuff, and then suddenly it goes to grainy black and white, and we've got video of Coleman which is I think slowed down and there's no sound. It's more of that distorted video of the opposing candidate that violates the campaign ad code of the Minnesota Compact.
Alger says it's legitimate for Democrats to question Coleman's knowledge of agricultural issues, given his background as a New York native and mayor of Saint Paul. But he cautions against taking one Coleman comment from a live event and blowing it out of proportion.
Alger: The things that are legitimate to talk about in a campaign are stands on issues, record, qualifications for office and leadership capacity. This is a qualification for office for governor of Minnesota. That's fair game. But as I say, I also want us, you know, to take a deep breath before we're forever taking one misstatement and belaboring it.
Coleman says his comment was taken out of context, and his campaign quickly unveiled its response - a radio ad running on more than forty stations throughout the state.
Ad clip: My name is Norm Coleman. I know what farmers are going through. And you know you can't believe everything you hear in the media. So please understand this: I am committed to the family farm. I know agriculture is the lifeblood of our state.

(Listen to entire ad in RealAudio 2.0 14.4)

Coleman promises to cut farm property taxes in half and talks about his opposition to feedlot moratoriums and his support for workers' compensation reform. He says what farmers really need is tax relief and less regulation. Analyst Clay Steinman, a communications studies professor at Macalester College, says it's not clear that Coleman's positions would benefit family farmers.
Steinman: Well, Coleman's trying to do something that's pretty tricky - he's trying to say he's pro-farmer without differentiating between corporate farmers and small farmers. His policies seem to be pro-corporate farmers - he stresses no limits on livestock feedlots.
On that issue, voters have a clear choice between Coleman and Humphrey - Humphrey supports a temporary moratorium on large-scale feedlots, which his running mate Roger Moe stresses in their latest television ad.
Ad clip: It's about the basic values of rural Minnesota. About caring for our elderly. About standing up against big feedlots and protecting the family farmer.

(View entire ad from our Media Page)

Moe, wearing a plaid shirt and standing in a barn, points out that he grew up on a farm. It's unusual for a lieutenant governor candidate to have his own ad, but on the farm issue, Moe has the most expertise on the ticket - the longtime Senate majority leader hails from northwestern Minnesota. Analyst Clay Steinman says the problem with the Moe ad is it lacks specifics - like the other farm ads, it puts image before content.
Steinman: What the candidates seem to be telling us is what governing style they have. And what we need to know is what are they going to propose to the Legislature on the specific problems that face Minnesotans.
Steinman says with a little more than a month until the election, voters should demand ads with more substance on more issues than farming.

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